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Malankara Orthodox Faithful sworn in as the 19th chief minister of Kerala

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  • Rev. Fr. John-Brian Paprock
    Challenges before the new Kerala CM George Iype in Thiruvananthapuram | August 31, 2004 22:48 IST http://in.rediff.com/news/2004/aug/31kerala3.htm When Oommen
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31 10:50 PM
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      Challenges before the new Kerala CM

      George Iype in Thiruvananthapuram | August 31, 2004 22:48 IST
      http://in.rediff.com/news/2004/aug/31kerala3.htm

      When Oommen Chandy, who was sworn in as the 19th chief minister of
      Kerala on Tuesday, gets down to the task of governing the state, he
      will have to turn the government's focus back on development plans.

      For nearly a year now, the infighting within the Congress had eroded
      chief minister A K Antony's authority.

      And 61-year-old Chandy, Antony's good friend, is only too aware of
      the hard days ahead. No wonder then hours before he took charge, he
      drove to his hometown in Kottayam district to pray at his beloved St
      George Orthodox Church and also seek his 84-year old mother's
      blessings.

      Congress and Left leaders agree in unison that the new chief minister
      has nothing to be happy about. The state attracted little investment
      in the three years that A K Antony led the United Democratic Front
      government and the coffers are virtually empty.

      The state's education sector is in a mess with the Left parties and
      influential church groups attacking the government. The Congress
      party itself is divided into at least four groups fighting amongst
      themselves.

      "Yes, it is hard days ahead for Chandy but I am sure he will bring
      the government to the path of development," senior Congress leader
      and Tourism Minister K V Thomas in the Antony government told
      rediff.com.

      Thomas says the Antony government had the right vision for
      Kerala. "We tried our best to make Kerala one of the finest states in
      the country. But we know it was not enough. The culture of violence,
      trade unionism and non-developmental agenda that the Left parties
      resort to has to end," he said.

      Leaders like Thomas feel that the change in leadership and a
      reshuffle in the government besides a revamping of the Congress party
      in the state will have a telling effect on the coalition's fortunes.

      Chandy's biggest advantage is that his strongest supporter now will
      be Antony himself.

      Politically and personally, Chandy and Antony have been thick friends
      for decades. For many years, the mild-mannered Chandy has been
      Antony's right hand man, especially in the factional fights against
      the rival Congress group headed by former chief minister K
      Karunakaran.

      Years back, Chandy played a crucial role in Antony's personal life
      too. When Antony continued with his political life without any
      thought of getting married, it was Chandy's wife, Mariamma, an
      officer with Canara Bank, who found a bride for him. The woman was
      her colleague Elizabeth. Antony was then 44.

      The biggest task before Chandy, often described as the people's
      politician, is to set the Congress' house in order to ensure that the
      government does not suffer because of infighting.

      The group headed by Karunakaran has been getting sidelined over the
      past few months. In July, Karunakaran was dropped from the Congress
      Working Committee and he could not even get an appointment to meet
      Sonia Gandhi.

      Karunakaran now claims that his demand for a better government led to
      Antony's ouster. He expressed happiness over Chandy taking over as
      chief minister but no one is willing to bet that he won't start
      bickering again.

      Reining in Karunakaran will be a major headache for Chandy.

      Secondly, the new chief minister has the difficult task of expanding
      the ministry in the next few days. The Congress high command has
      apparently instructed Chandy to bring in fresh faces.

      At the same time, dropping ministers would lead to resentment.

      Governance-wise, Chandy's biggest challenge would be to bring in a
      new investment and development-oriented culture in Kerala.

      When Antony took over, he held a global investor meet but it had
      failed to attract significant investments as Antony's attention was
      diverted towards the Congress' internecine wars.

      However, the UDF government had embarked on a few initiatives to set
      Kerala on the path of development. They include the construction of
      the country's first International Tran-shipment Terminal at Kochi and
      setting up of a chain of IT parks across the state. It has been
      wooing German carmaker BMW for some time now to set up a plant in the
      state.

      The direction that Chandy imparts to the government and the party
      will decide the Congress' prospects in the 2006 assembly elections.
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